By Robert Ross


"Music hath charms to soothe a savage beast, to soften rocks or bend a
knotted Oak"

            - William Congreve

Someone in the audience commented to us, "why don't you play something
that we know . . . that we can hum along to?"  It was December, and we were playing at a retirement home in the San Diego area.  The group, known as The Pacifica Classical Guitar Quartet  plays classical, Spanish and some contemporary songs.  I'll be the first to admit that up to this point, there really isn't anything in our repertoire to which someone living in a retirement home would want to tap his foot to. We do play a mean Bouree, by Bach, but that's not exactly a foot tapper.

A few months after our gig, the activity director from the same retirement home called and asked if we would, on short notice,  play for them again.  "Sure" I said.  As I began putting together the music, I had remembered the comment made by the elderly person and decided that we should try to play some songs that would appeal to this particular audience.

After spending more then a few hours driving around town visiting music stores, my search for the right kind of music was proving unsuccessful.

The Web, Dummy!
O.K., I admit it, I'm slow to catch on . . . why I wasted the gas money and time is beyond me, I should have just dialed in and let the old "search engine" do the rest. So, that's exactly what I did.

I had some song titles floating through my mind that I thought would work, "New York-New York" (just mentioning the title gets me humming the tune),   "Take Five" and "Puttin on the Ritz," which is a big band-era favorite.  So my mission was to find these or similar songs using the Internet. Ultimately, I wanted the sheet music.

There's got to be thousands of Web sites devoted to music on the In-ternet. To narrow the search, I knew that I was looking for a "midi file."  Posting of the actual printed sheet music on the Internet is a violation of copyright laws.  A midi file is a file that you can download into your computer, then using a software program, play the song through your computer (providing you have a sound card and speakers). A midi file song sounds a bit like playing a song on an inexpensive electric keyboard, when played through your computer. The advantage of a midi file is that a song can be run through a software program and voila, you have sheet music!

My first stop was .  This page has an extensive library of songs from the classics to jazz, an index of composers and information on all aspects of music.  Of course, I had to listen to half the library.  I then went to   which was a really cool site. They concentrate on "foot tapping" types of melodies. After that I visited , which has an extensive library of classical music.  Their index page boasts of over 9000 products for sale and the world's largest classical guitar library.  Of course, no guitarist is going to want to pass up .  Yes, I was in downloading heaven.

Midi files are small in size (byte wise) and can be downloaded in seconds.  Once you have them on disk, it's fun to sit back and enjoy the music.

I'm not sure that I actually did save time using the Internet, because I think it was around  midnight when my wife yelled to me, "Isn't it time for bed?"  I got the hint.  There's always tomorrow! If you're looking for music, music news groups, music chat rooms, midi files, or information on songs or composers, the Internet is the place to be.  Just allow yourself plenty of time . . . you're going to have fun!

If you've discovered some real "finds" using the Internet, e-mail me at   and I'll share your tips in future columns.

Copyright 1998 by Robert Ross, all rights reserved

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